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Asia prepares for swine flu pandemic

Asia prepares for swine flu pandemic

The US has already declared a public emergency because of the rising number of swine flu cases. China and Russia have made plans to quarantine anyone with symptoms of the virus, agencies reported.

Several of Japan's largest electronics companies have halted business trips to Mexico after a deadly outbreak of swine flu in the country.

Responding to this serious concern on the fast spreading swine flu, Singapore on Monday (27 April) deployed thermal scanners at the city's Changi International Airport to screen arriving passengers, stated an AFP/Straits Times report."

"From Wednesday, the body heat scanners will also be deployed at a terminal used by budget airlines and an airport used by private jets," the report stated. "The scanners were used to detect fever in arriving passengers after the outbreak of the flu-like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003 and more recently in the fight against the bird flu virus."

The report also mentioned the health ministry's advice to Singapore residents to postpone or avoid non-essential travel to Mexico.

Hong Kong's tough measures

The New York Times has reported that Hong Kong, the epicentre of a SARS outbreak six years ago, announced some of the toughest measures anywhere on Sunday (26 April) in response to a swine flu outbreak in Mexico and the United States. "Officials urged residents not to travel to Mexico, and they ordered the immediate detention at a hospital of anyone who arrived with a fever and symptoms of a respiratory illness after travelling in the previous seven days through a city with a laboratory-confirmed outbreak," the paper reported.

Pandemic in the making?

"We are counting down to a pandemic," said Guan Yi, a professor at the University of Hong Kong who helped trace the outbreak of SARS in 2003 to the civet cat, according to a Reuters report.

"I think the spread of this virus in humans cannot possibly be contained within a short time ... there are already cases in almost every region. The picture is changing every moment."

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation said on Monday that Asia is better prepared than other regions to handle an outbreak of swine flu due to its experience in dealing with epidemics such as SARS.

Pharmaceutical company Roche Holding has said it can deliver three million doses of Tamiflu for swine flu.

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